World Heart Day

Posted: 1940 days ago in Health

pink-heartI think it’s lovely that we devote a day to the well-being of one of our most vital organs – our heart. Most of us know what we should be doing to keep our hearts healthy, but I’ll give you a quick recap of my top heart-healthy tips:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a clean, well-balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage stress effectively
  • Get adequate, good quality sleep

Healthy-heart information is plentiful, but let’s not forget that the heart is also the center of our emotional well-being.

Even if you are a prime physical specimen; depression, loneliness and stress will surely affect your heart health after a period of time. Conversely, those of us struggling with disease consistently recover more quickly, tolerate treatments better and report a better quality of life overall if they feel loved, cared for and peaceful in their hearts.

So take this day to check in with yourself, and make sure that you are doing all you can to keep your heart – and soul– healthy for many years to come.

With so much love on #worldheartday!

Say No to Drugs?

Posted: 1952 days ago in Lifestyle

We’ve done a great job of adopting Nancy Reagan’s philosophy on drug use: “Just Say No”.

Or have we? Check out this cartoon..

say no to drugs

Did you know that about 85% of all drugs are for the “temporary relief of [fill in the blank]”?

From the earliest of ages, if someone felt bad, we’ve given them drugs. For clarity, I am not talking about the appropriate use of life-saving drugs. I’m talking about the drugs that just make your symptoms go away instead of getting to the root cause of a problem.

I have a lot to say about masking pain (and other symptoms) to begin with, so if you haven’t read my “Pain is Powerful” article, I strongly encourage you to.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known that take Pepcid, Mylanta, Alka-Seltzer, or chew on Tums all day. And do you know anyone that carries around a bottle of ibuprofen in their purse to deal with their daily headache / back pain / or menstrual cramps? (*wink*wink*)

Might it be a better idea to talk to a nutritionist to see what foods you might be sensitive to? Alternatively, you could meet with a counselor or acupuncturist to see how you can manage stress more effectively so it doesn’t make you, literally, sick to your stomach.

Do you get what I’m saying?

We are conditioned from a very young age to take something when we feel bad. As we get older, the “not feeling well” turns into “my boyfriend broke up with me,” “my job is too stressful,” or “these kids are on my last nerve!” It can be anything; finances, failing a class, or stress over our weight. If we allow it, we’ll attempt to numb any and all of our negative feelings with nicotine, alcohol or other drugs.

I do believe we should continue to “Say No To Drugs,” I just think we need to include 85% of the over-the-counter and/or prescription drugs that are not contributing to our health. Instead, all they’re doing is setting patterns that may make it easier to fall into illegal or addictive drug use, which could snowball into a much bigger problem later on.

Next time you want to reach for that OTC solution, stop and ask yourself if there’s another answer.

Slough Off The First Signs of Illness

Posted: 1953 days ago in Health

slough of illness - exfoliationIf I haven’t already said it enough, I love exfoliation. But I especially love how far a good exfoliation can go when you’re under the weather.

So, if you’re sick, keep reading. If you’re healthy, check out my post, “love the skin you’re in(or keep reading for future reference!)

From a health perspective, our skin plays a huge rule in our body’s ability to bounce back quickly from a cold vs. lingering on in agony. The skin, our largest organ, acts as a barrier to things getting in, but it also acts as a “canal” for the excretion of things getting out. So, imagine if your body is a cesspool for a virus. How is your body going to expel the virus if your pores are blocked?

The same flaky skin that makes your makeup look bad is the pore clogging culprit keeping you from healthier days.

One of my first lines of defense when I’m not quite feeling like myself is to get into the hottest bath I can stand. The trick for this is to fill the bath half-full with comfortably warm water, get in, and then turn up the heat all the way. Once you’ve done this, just give your body some time to soak in the hot water and your pores will open right open up.

Then, when you’re ready, scrub away! I recommend scrubbing with an exfoliation glove ($5, Target) and focusing on areas where your lymph nodes are concentrated (i.e. the armpits, groin, front and back of the neck) to stimulate the immune response of the body. If you’re feeling sassy, dump a few cups of Epsom salt into the water. (Side note: if you don’t have gloves, rubbing with Epsom salt is a great option too.)

Let’s recap. The hot water got the pores to open up, the exfoliation got rid of the pore blocking dead skin, and now the Epsom salt will literally kick the toxin excretion into overdrive. So sit back, relax and sweat out the bad stuff. Once you’re out of the shower, skip the moisturizer and drink plenty of water (both of these things will also help). I can’t say for certain this will nip your cold in the bud, but chances are it will get you feeling better, sooner.

Wishing everyone good health this flu season! XO!

The Midwifery Myth

Posted: 1957 days ago in Parenting

the midwifery mythSay that one five times, fast. LOL!

When you think of a midwife, you may conjure up images of a long gauzy skirt, hairy armpits and/or birthing in a field. Nothing could be further from the truth. The midwife who delivered my second child was actually a guy, and though I love David, I decidedly do not wish to see him in a skirt.

“Midwife” means “with woman”. A natural pregnancy, labor and delivery will be very much supported by a midwife, but my girls are nearly grown, and I still make yearly visits to mine.

Midwives are well qualified to perform all of the services that your gynecologist would perform during your annual, well-woman visit. They do my Pap smears, breast exams and manage my birth control. Recently, they checked my thyroid and Vitamin D levels, and talked about options for dealing with my, uh, urinary issues. I leave each visit feeling well cared for in mind, body, and spirit.

My oldest daughter Francesca recently had her first visit with our family midwife, where they chatted about reproductive health, self-breast exams, and birth control. I anticipate that when the time comes for me to talk about menopause, they’ll partner with me to make great decisions about that transition as well.

So if your annual visits take 10 minutes, and the doctor might only recognize you from the waist down, you may want to consider switching to a midwifery practice for your feminine health needs.

You’re Going to Make Me Talk About Childhood Vaccinations, Aren’t You?

Posted: 1977 days ago in Parenting

childhoodvaccinationsSigh.

And I only say that because there are some very strong opinions surrounding this issue, and I’m certain that I will piss someone off. 

Here’s what I know: when a healthy body has appropriate amounts of good quality food, rest, exercise, stress management and a properly functioning nervous system, it has the best opportunity to resist all disease through a strong immune response.  Exposure to disease through contact with a contagious person OR through vaccination in this case will quite likely not result in illness or adverse reaction.

However, an immuno-compromised person is much more likely to catch the disease or have an adverse reaction to a vaccine. One also needs to think about the likelihood of exposure to each disease and the potential severity of each disease, compared to the frequency and number of vaccines recommended over a finite period of time.

I personally do not believe that every child needs every vaccine, especially in multiple doses over a relatively short period of time. There are many parents who choose single doses, spread out over a long period of time, rather than an all-or-nothing approach.

The best approach, in my opinion, is to do your research. Read books in support of and against routine vaccination. Talk to other like-minded parents. Have an honest conversation with your child’s doctor. Listen to your gut. Make an informed decision.

Personally, my choices for my children are not my recommendations for my patients, readers or friends. I am grateful to have two beautifully healthy, unvaccinated girls. None of the decisions regarding their health are made lightly, and we are committed to a lifestyle that supports their health in every controllable way.  I just finished re-reading a fabulous book by Stephanie Cave, MD:  “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations”.

Well worth the trip.

You Make Me Want To Puke (Part One)

Posted: 1998 days ago in Parenting

youmakemewanttopukeYeah, prenatal vitamins, I’m talking to you!

Most pregnant women will experience morning (and noon, and night!) sickness to some extent.

The lucky ones will have a fleeting queasy stomach, while others like Kate Middleton will be hospitalized for “hyperemesis gravidum” or puking until you are so dehydrated you have to be hospitalized. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

Eating something light like crackers can help with nausea first thing in the morning, as can having small snacks throughout the day. However, a huge factor in minimizing the extent of your morning sickness is changing when you take your prenatal vitamin.

I figured this out when I was pregnant with Jules. I had a moderate amount of morning sickness, and noticed when I ran out of my vitamins that I felt great! Lo and behold, I started taking them again and started puking again.

Hmmm. Since I was taking them with breakfast, I tried taking them later in the day (with dinner), which proved to be very helpful. On particularly queasy days, I skipped them altogether (gasp!). Yes I did. My diet was excellent, and I made sure to eat enough foods with folic acid and other nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy.

On a sidenote: Food sources of nutrients are preferred anyway, and vitamins should truly be supplementary.

Please hear me ladies! I am NOT saying that you should never take a prenatal vitamin, but rather… IF you are having morning sickness to the extent that you are not eating or keeping food down, then change up the timing of your vitamin, or skip it for a few days to see if it makes a difference.

The great majority of our patients will report (with glee!) that changing it up or skipping the vitamins, greatly decreases or eliminates their morning sickness. Now that, is something to chew on.

You CAN Handle The Truth

Posted: 2000 days ago in Health

youcanhandlethetruthDoctors lie to their patients all the time, and by lie, I really mean, “lie by omission”.

As I say this, I’m thinking of a patient I had a long time ago that taught me that lesson. She sat in my office, and told me that despite all of the doctors she had seen and all the treatments she’d had for chronic heel pain, both of her heels hurt all the time, for years and years.

So, I took a deep breath. I looked at her and with all the love and kindness I could muster.

And said…

“Sweetheart. Your heels hurt because you’re morbidly obese. They simply weren’t designed to hold up a 400 lb. body.”

She looked at me with total shock and disbelief, and said, “No one has ever told me that. Now hear me, I know I’m a big girl. That’s no secret, but no doctor has ever had the guts to tell me that my feet hurt because I’m fat!”

I said, “Well, I can’t lie to you. That’s why.”

All of the doctors she saw were more willing to give her drugs and procedures to mask the pain, all of which had potentially serious side effects, rather than have an honest and difficult conversation with her about losing weight.

Now flash forward. I’m a mom and a doctor. I doctor my kids fairly regularly, but occasionally, I want a second opinion or another set of eyes on a problem. Case in point: Jules had a lingering cough. Coughs don’t generally bother me, but this was lasting longer and sounded a little more serious than I was comfortable with. So, I took her to my pediatrician whom, by the way, I love very much because he lets me have these difficult conversations with him, and loves me back anyway.

I explained the situation to him, and he said, “Alright, we’ll give her this,” as he proceeds to write her a prescription. My reaction went something like – “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I didn’t come for drugs I came for information.” I was there to make sure I wasn’t missing something, and to find out if he felt strongly whether or not we should intervene in some way.

His reply was, “I think you can safely watch her, and hold off on the medicine unless A, B, and C happen. But quite likely she’ll be better in a week or so.”

I told him, “I’m a little confused. The very first thing you did was tell me to give her medicine, so if she’s quite fine without it, why did you do that?”

To which he said, “Well, I figured you took the time to come in and paid your co-pay, so I assumed you wanted me to do something, as most parents do. Most parents want me to give more than advice. They want me to take action to make their child better.”

I want reiterate that Jule’s pediatrician is not a bad doctor, and the prescription wasn’t a wrong recommendation. It just wasn’t the best recommendation at that time.

He could have said things like:

  • “Let’s practice watchful waiting.”
  • “I think she’ll be fine, but if she gets worse instead of better, come back and see me.”
  • “Try these home remedies.”

I want to make it clear that most doctors practice really good medicine. However, in these days of managed-care and 5-minute office visits, I think to write the prescription first, ask the difficult questions later, is common. I don’t want to be inflammatory, because their intention is to be helpful and to ultimately make their patients better, but to all the moms out there I say this:

Make it your responsibility to get all the information before making a decision, and ask your doctor to be more of a counselor than a prescriber.

The F.Y.I. on U.T.I.s

Posted: 2002 days ago in Health

The FYI on UTILucky you, if you’ve never had a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection, aka bladder infection).

Trust me when I say, you do not want one. The first one I ever had crept up on me in the middle of the night. I felt the urge to pee, so I got up and relieved myself. When I got off the pot, the urge returned, this time even stronger. I sat down again, and nothing. Up another time, down again, like a miserable version of musical chairs, each round getting more and more painful. So, off I went to the emergency room.

Bladder infections most often occur when bacteria make their way up your urethra from the outside.

Can you guess how this might happen? Sometimes UTIs go by the name of “honeymoon cystitis,” so you’d be right! Oh, what is a girl to do? Some women are more prone than others, and once you have a UTI, you are quite likely to have more. Below are some things you can do to head UTIs off at the pass, or prevent them altogether for the lucky few that have never experienced a UTI before.

  1. Make sure your (and your partner’s) parts are clean. This is very important. Any bacteria that might be lingering in and around your genital area can easily get pushed up into the urethra.
  2. Even if you are both squeaky clean, unlubricated and/or frequent intercourse can irritate your sensitive tissues down there, making you more vulnerable to an infection. Keep this in mind…
  3. Wearing thong panties (sorry girls, I feel your pain!) can also wick bacteria up into your netherlands. Consider a different style?
  4. When you feel the first signs of irritation that can indicate an infection is on its way; drink a ton of water to flush bacteria out of your bladder.
  5. Avoid caffeinated beverages, which can further irritate your bladder.
  6. Consider taking vitamin C or cranberry extract to acidify your urine, which is thought to prevent the bacteria from sticking to your bladder walls. (Sidenote: Cranberry cocktail is not the same as cranberry extract, as it has a lot of sugar which will make your UTI worse).
  7. If your infections are tied to intercourse: try going to the bathroom immediately after, so that if anything did go up your urethra, there is a good chance for it to come right back out.
  8. Wash up after intercourse with soap and warm water, rinsing thoroughly.

All of these things will help immensely!

Once you have an active infection, your doctor will quite likely treat you with a round of antibiotic therapy and a medication to help with that extreme urgency. Note: that medication, sold OTC under names like “Urostat,” makes you pee a very bright orange. And since infections can make you dribble a little bit, you’ll want to be very sure that you don’t stain your clothing!

Antibiotics can predispose you to getting a yeast infection, so trust me on this one also: you’ll want to avoid that at any cost! For now, know that adding probiotics to your diet while on antibiotics can help to prevent yeast infections from happening.

When left untreated, bladder infections can migrate up to your kidneys, creating a much more serious condition. So seek treatment if needed, but clearly, the best approach with UTIs is to prevent them altogether.

Tell Me No Secrets, I’ll Tell You No Lies

Posted: 2005 days ago in Health

tell me no secretsWhy do we do the things we do?

Better yet, why don’t we do what we know is good for us? It certainly isn’t for lack of available information. Pretty much everything we need to know about being healthy is out there – so why don’t we do it?

Day after day, patients come in and ask me what they can do to be healthier.

I flip it. I ask them to tell me three things they KNOW they need to do to be healthier. Guess what? They can often rattle off TEN things! So why do they need my advice?!

Here’s what I hear: “I drink nothing but Diet Coke all day, I don’t exercise, and I hate my husband.” Or, “I sit 18 hours a day, I never eat until dinnertime, and I only sleep 4 hours a night.”

Duh. And they wonder why they are sick? Most chronic disease roots itself in LIFESTYLE CHOICES. Nothing I do TO a patient can overcome poor lifestyle choices. Sure, treating them gives them the best chance they have to stay on this side of the dirt, but unless they make major changes, they will never be truly well.

Health crisis often motivates lifestyle change, but I challenge you to start those healthier habits now. Think about what those changes will bring to you: wouldn’t you love to have more energy to play with your kids? Wouldn’t it be nice to feel more attractive at a healthier weight? How nice would it be to live without daily headaches, anxiety or pain?

A better life is possible, but you will not likely find it in a pill or patch, or at the hands of someone else. You will – you must – find the courage within yourself to admit that you need to make changes, and the strength to do it.

Pain is Powerful

Posted: 2007 days ago in Health

Pain is Powerful Question for you. If your house were on fire, would you take the batteries out of the smoke alarm because the noise was annoying? (What is she thinking? Of course not!)

Wellll… Let’s say you have neck pain, and that neck pain causes chronic headaches, from, I don’t know, sitting all day long at a computer (an all too common culprit). That headache (aka: fire) now causes you to pop a couple of Advil to make it go away (aka: you just took those batteries out).

Alternatively, your lower back is killing you (another fire), but you really want to go to your Crossfit class, so you pop a couple Tylenol so you can get through the class (uh – buh-bye batteries).

See where I’m heading with this? Pain is our body’s way of communicating that SOMETHING IS WRONG! Those headaches? Perhaps you need to rework your computer station, so there is less stress on your neck. That lower-back pain? If you sit all day, the pain you’re experiencing is telling you to change up your current situation, and probably see a chiropractor to get things back in alignment.

When you mask pain chemically, you are shutting down the feedback system that your body has in place to protect itself. Not a great idea, ever. Let’s get you thinking of WHY you’re having the pain in the first place, and what needs to be done to remedy that, instead of just numbing it and hoping it will get better. What tends to happen is that the underlying problem persists, necessitating pain meds more frequently, and in higher doses.

Did you know that the vast majority of nerves in your body do not feel pain at all? And since the nerves that control every part of your body exit through the spine, that back pain you’re experiencing could merely be the tip of the iceberg. So, if you have back pain (like 80% of us do!), then you can almost be certain that other nerves are being compromised, contributing to a whole host of health ramifications.

So the next time you have some pain or discomfort, please pause before you reflexively reach for the pain suppressants. Instead, consult with your chiropractor to see what the underlying cause is. Your life just might depend on it.